A new 24/7 Wall Street report reveals that only four states are poorer than Kentucky.
Kentucky’s poverty rate of 19.4 percent in 2012 was much higher than the national rate, which is less than 16 percent; median income is under $42,000 a year – more than $9,000 below the national median.
Other key indicators of the commonwealth’s continual swim upstream in the River of Poverty include our jobless rate of 8.4 percent in August – more than a full point above the national rate – and the fact that only two other states hand out food stamps to a greater percentage of residents.
Some say more government programs and mandates will solve the poverty problem.
In a recent Bowling Green Daily News story, Cheryl Allen, CEO of Community Action of Southern Kentucky, told the newspaper that income disparity is “why we can’t improve the poverty statistics.”
Allen criticized a recent proposal in Washington to cut food stamps by 5 percent, claiming that it would force the poor to “decide whether to cover housing or be homeless, put gas in their car or quit a job, feed their family or steal to get that food.”
But is the solution for government to implement the very policies that would harm those Allen purports to help?
Food stamps, minimum-wage increases – which she also expressed support for – and other government-induced programs have repeatedly failed to create opportunities for prosperity that would actually close those income gaps Allen frets about.
There are better ways for Kentucky to address its challenges.
At a recent event previewing the 2014 session of the Kentucky General Assembly co-sponsored by the Bluegrass Institute, State Budget Solutions (SBS) and George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, SBS president Bob Williams urged lawmakers to do what his home state of Washington did a decade ago: priority-based budgeting.
Williams said this approach moves away from focusing “almost entirely on inputs” – how much money do we need to sustain current programs and expenses – to the harder, but more effective work that requires lawmakers to determine core functions and allows their agreed-upon priorities to determine spending decisions.
The ripple effect of such an approach would result in Kentucky legislative leaders moving away from the horse trading that now goes on behind closed doors at the end of drawn-out, drama-filled legislative budget sessions, and instead would use taxpayer dollars more carefully. It also would provide a better way of determining which programs truly help the neediest among us.
It also would reduce the “stupid tax” forced upon taxpayers by politicians’ undisciplined spending decisions.
Williams offers this example: “Here we have a city, Detroit, in bankruptcy, and what did the legislature do – the conservative legislature and the conservative governor of Michigan? They’re funding – with public dollars – a new hockey rink in Detroit.”
Every legislator in Kentucky would benefit from Williams’s experience with “reality-based budgeting,” as he calls it. Such an approach helped his home state of Washington eliminate a $2.8 billion deficit without raising taxes in 2003. Find more about how that happened at www.statebudgetsolutions.org.
There are other ideas, as well.
As a Bowling Green city commissioner for two terms beginning in 2005, Western Kentucky University economics professor Brian Strow, Ph.D., led the effort to implement a zero-based budgeting process that helped the city weather the coming economic storm.
Strow endorsed Williams’s approach for state government and described his own approach as a commissioner this way: “We made all special interest groups testify before the commission to justify spending on their behalf. It revealed areas that really were low priority were getting funded over areas – like alley repaving – that really needed it. By moving money toward the city’s basic needs, we were in a better position to handle the economic recession.”
Whether you call it priority-based, reality-based or zero-based, processes that limit the size, scope and cost of government are healthy for taxpayers – both in terms of costs and services.
History also proves they are the better ideas for pulling Kentucky out of the River of Poverty and through economic storms.
Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at email@example.com. Read previously published columns at www.bipps.org.
A new 24/7 Wall Street report reveals that only four states are poorer than Kentucky.
Starting over at Head Start
All I ever wanted to be was a journalist. Having worked on my high school and college newspapers, I knew it was the career for me.
I love talking to people, listening to their stories, being creative every day and experiencing new things. But as you know, news happens outside the hours of 9 to 5, and my job here at the Register rarely stayed within that time frame.
They don’t make strawberries as they did back in the old days
I’m not inclined to go through my archives at the moment, but it almost feels like the column I’m about to write has almost become an annual thing over the years.
At least I know for sure that that this is not the first time that memories of picking strawberries there on Blair Branch on hot days in June has triggered this keyboard about this time of year.
I grew up on a little subsistence, hillside farm deep in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, among the coalfields near the Virginia line.
Baby boomers have let technology rob their grandchildren of the joys of youth
When I was growing up, it was not uncommon to see fathers and sons along creek banks fishing together or in the woods hunting squirrels or pitching horse shoes or even shooting marbles late in the afternoon in the cool hours before dark.
Dads were teaching kids to play the games they grew up with. Little girls, learned from mothers,how to skip rope, play with jacks or play hopscotch.
No Lincoln or Douglas in this debate
Remember the famous slap-down in the 1988 vice presidential debate when Republican Dan Quayle compared his youth and limited government experience to those of John Kennedy’s when Kennedy ran for president?
His Democratic opponent, Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, acidly replied: “I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”
Senate campaign already in full bloom
Any hope for a respite in the U.S. Senate campaign following Tuesday’s primary disappeared immediately.
Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes came out swinging in victory speeches which sounded like campaign kickoffs.
McConnell commended Matt Bevin on “a tough (primary) race” and appealed to Bevin supporters to unite behind his re-election bid. That will be hard for Bevin and those who backed him.
‘Taxpayer-eaters’ meet ‘self-serving politician-eaters’
What some candidates could gain in this year’s election – beyond just winning office – is a stark reminder of how wrong political leaders were when declaring last year they had adequately addressed Kentucky’s public-pension crisis.
Instead, legislators with serious courage deficiencies failed to agree on reforms beyond what they believe are “politically feasible.”
Step Out, Step up for Diabetes Association
Six weeks ago when I wrote here announcing the 2014 Edition of Team TKO’s American Diabetes Association, Step Out Walk Team, several dozen of you readers sent generous donations to sponsor grandson Tyler Kane Ochs (TKO) and me in the walk that takes place, rain or shine, in the mud or not, at Keeneland on the morning of May 31.
Another several dozen of you either called, emailed or dropped a card in regular mail and asked that I remind you again “after the holidays” (Easter and Mother’s Day).
Hitting the campaign trail
The most watched race in the country ? the battle for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Mitch McConnell ? has so far produced a bevy of charges and not much substance.
We haven’t seen that much of McConnell or his likely Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes out on the campaign trail.
McConnell’s primary opponent Matt Bevin has been much more active and visible, but his performance hasn’t enhanced his chances.
The case of the scary black cat
If Margie didn’t believe that black cats were the harbinger of bad luck, she certainly believed it when a black cat brushed against her leg while she was leaning over a large trash can burning garbage one late afternoon.
Startled by the sudden appearance of the feline, Margie opened her mouth wide and let out a blood-curdling scream that could have awakened Count Dracula himself.
Basking in the spring sunshine
If you had asked me, as recently as two weeks ago, to make a list of things I expected to see on the first Monday in May of 2014, two of the things that I actually did see would not have been on the list, even if you’d required that it contain at least 500 items.
I’d have been a bit skeptical about Ralph’s purple asparagus and his gorgeous snowball bush, both of which came through most admirably. And I would have had my doubts about the poppies that have been in our back yard for several generations and the bearded German Iris that Jeanette Todd gave us more than two decades ago. It faithfully stuns us there at the corner of the front porch every spring, but there they were, basking in absolute glory as the sun set Monday afternoon.
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